Jamba Dunn, Founder of Rowdy Mermaid, joins Waylon for a chat about craft kombucha: how to drink it & independent entrepreneurialism.
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In spring of 2013, Jamba Dunn lost his office job in a corporate downsizing that turned out to be one of the most fortunate events of his life.
He had been brewing kombucha in his garage for over two years, and secretly dreaming about an exit strategy from corporate culture. This seemed to be the universe kicking him squarely in the pants towards that door.
He was living in Boulder, the healthiest city in the country, but Jamba and his wife had been so busy with work that the things that make them most happy—gardening, hiking, experimenting with new recipes, tastes and experiences—were increasingly falling to the wayside.
With the cautious blessing of his wife, he made a leap of faith into the unknown and decided to start a kombucha company. He was armed with curiosity, a love of research, a discerning palate, a deep desire to live a healthier life, and an obsessive compulsive’s attention to detail.
This last trait would come in handy as he set out to become as knowledgeable about the intricacies of the chemistry of kombucha brewing as possible, while simultaneously teaching himself to navigate the daunting maze of city codes and ordinances required to renovate an empty warehouse into a fermentation taproom. His goal was not to manufacture a product for mass consumption; He wanted a venue where he could experiment with the freshest wildcrafted ingredients and seasonal flavors.
Colorado is surrounded by wilderness, from snowcapped peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the cool streams bisecting the towns, but it is also surrounded by an unseen wilderness of microbial biodiversity. The pursuit of craft kombucha is also the pursuit of diversity and place. Jamba started Rowdy Mermaid to create a venue where he could explore that diversity daily.
He is often asked where the name Rowdy Mermaid comes from. His answer:
“My daughter has been my most enthusiastic taste-tester since I started brewing back in 2011. She had a great palate even at the tender age of 3, and I quickly learned to trust her instincts. Because my recipes were toddler safe (caffeine, alcohol and sugar free), I taught myself techniques for making them aggressively flavorful.
One day, we were up in the mountains at a nearby hot springs and she was cavorting merrily in the warm pool, pretending to be a mermaid. I had been dreaming about launching the business and was figuring out how to broach the idea to my wife. As my eyes fell on my daughter, the name Rowdy Mermaid floated into my mind, and it all seemed to fall into place at that moment. The name stuck.”
~ Jamba Dunn, Ph.D.
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photos: Rowdy Mermaid